Monday, February 15, 2010

Towards a definition of poetry

My friend Jeff (rockstar/poet) just posted this on Facebook, and I thought I'd pass it along for you to consider.  (NB: I also stole the title for this blog post from him.  Good writers borrow.  Great writers steal.  Bonus points if you know who I've just paraphrased without having to Google it.)

Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment. An operation capable of changing the world, poetic activity is revolution by nature; a spiritual exercise, it is a means of interior liberation. Poetry reveals this world; it creates another. Bread of the chosen; accursed food. It isolates; it unites. Invitation to the journey; return to the homeland. Inspiration, respiration, muscular exercise. Prayer to the void, dialogue with absence; tedium, anguish, and despair nourish it. Prayer, litany, epiphany, presence. Exorcism, conjuration, magic. Sublimation, compensation, condensation of the unconscious. Historic expression of races, nations, classes. It denies history: at its core all objective conflicts are resolved and man at last acquires consciousness of being something more than a transient. Experience, feeling, emotion, intuition, undirected thought. Result of chance; fruit of calculation. Art of speaking in a superior way; primitive language. Obedience to the rules; creation of others. Imitation of the ancients, copy of the real, copy of a copy of the Idea. Madness, ecstasy, logos. Return to childhood, coitus, nostalgia for paradise, for hell, for limbo. Play, work, ascetic activity. Confession. Innate experience. Vision, music, symbol.

--Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre

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